In mid Pennsylvania there’s a dirty little secret called the horse auction. Broken down unwanted equines go to stone faced kill buyers, to become dog food via the Canadian and Mexican rendering plants. Lame school horses, of broken knees and weary eye, no longer worth their keep at the “nice stables”, are cheaply sold to hack barns, consigned to circle another level of Dante’s Inferno. Amish horses of dubious background and temperament abound. Sometimes shoestring budget rescues step in, eagerly waving a few twenties to spare a life from further misery. And every once in a while, there’s a somewhat broke but well meaning rider who just wants to see if magic can happen.
The talented Amish riders can make a rhino look like a dancing Lipizzaner. Make no mistake about it, these people can ride- young boys in straw hats, old men with worn work boots, young women gathering up their long blue dresses to leap astride- they make each horse look like a wonderful bargain and oh, so easy to ride. Don’t focus on the overgrown hooves-they can be fixed. Hacking cough? No problem, surely that’s simply due to the damp day. Green discharge from his nose- irritation from the hay, no doubt. Fractious mare? No, not at all, she just doesn’t like his riding style. Watch me ride her. See? Easy as pie. And a great deal on that one too- bid on that one, don’t let her get away.
Levi was the spotter. He studied me, steathily stalking and calculating as I examined possible candidates. Ducking behind restless rumps, peering through rusty metal dividers, pausing to pretend to examine fliers on the old worn wooden boards.He knew exactly what I was looking for. Levi pretended to be a casual observer, helpful, innocently striking up a helpful patter. “Whatcha looking for? Oh, I know a good seller. Did you see this horse?”
I didn’t say much, just smiled and continued bending, twisting, looking at as many body parts as possible for give-away signs of expense vet bills. After settling on my three possible candidates, my new shadow, Levi, materiaized at the test ride area. “Want me to ride em?”, he eagerly offered. “It’s raining and that concrete’s slick. I’ll ride em for you.” “No thank you,” I replied evenly. “I like to get a feel of them myself.” Levi looked a little alarmed at my first choice. “Why don’t you let that lady ride first,” he whispered. Something is his gaze made me listen.
Please stay tuned for the next installment!